Mumbai: Death of fireman reveals BMC apathy again

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It was suggested that firemen be freed from attending bird and animal rescue, tree collapse and oil spill calls, so as to attend only fire calls; civic body is yet to take a call on this

Chief Fire Officer PS Rahangdale (in white) pay his respects to Rajendra Bhojane who suffered burn injuries when he was trying to rescue a crow
Chief Fire Officer PS Rahangdale (in white) pay his respects to Rajendra Bhojane who suffered burn injuries when he was trying to rescue a crow

One of the three firemen, who suffered burn injuries recently, while trying to rescue a crow stuck on a high-tension wire, died on December 31 when the whole world was celebrating New Year. The family of the fireman refused to collect the body for six hours demanding that he be declared a martyr, and that benefits after his death are provided at the earliest to them. They took it to their hometown in Ahmednagar after they were told to give the demands in writing.

Rajendra Bhojane
Rajendra Bhojane

After suffering for almost 20 days, Rajendra Bhojane of Byculla fire station who suffered 50 per cent burns, succumbed to infection at 10.30pm on December 31. More than a year back it was suggested that fire brigade personnel be relieved from bird and animal rescue jobs. But the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) apathy has led to no progress in the issue. In April 2015, after a fire in a Kalbadevi building killed four senior fire brigade officials including the then chief fire officer, civic chief Ajoy Mehta had set up a seven-member committee headed by an Additional Municipal Commissioner, Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, to probe the incident and provide a roadmap to upgrade the fire brigade.

The committee, in its report (June 2015) has strongly recommended relieving fire brigade personnel from attending bird and animal rescue, tree collapse and oil spill calls. The idea was to ease the fire brigade personnel from such calls as their primary duty is fire fighting.

Going one by one
A senior civic official said, “We are implementing all the recommendations step by step. Preparing a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for fire fighting, arrangements of regular health check ups, providing mini fire tenders were on priority, so we have completed that. Since there are so many other things we are doing them one by one,” an official said. He added, “It will take more time since we are yet to make any plan for making a separate cell for bird and animal rescue. We will try to take help of some animal lover groups or NGOs.”

At the same time, the official also claimed that fire brigade personnel’s families aren’t given proper facilities after their death. “When a senior officer dies while saving people, he is declared a martyr. But when a fireman dies saving lives of other people, no respect is given to them,” said Baba Kadam, a fireman who is also a member of the firemen’s association.

“When a senior officer dies, all the benefits to the family members are provided at the earliest but when a junior fireman dies, the family has to struggle for years to get the facilities,” he added.

According to the records available with Mumbai fire brigade, the control room gets at least 7-8 calls bird and animal rescue every day. In 2013, a 31-year-old fireman Umesh Parvate died after he fell while trying to rescue a crow.

Union raps BMC
The fire brigade union has slammed the civic body for not doing enough to free them from attending calls of bird and animal rescues. The working president of Mumbai Agnishaman Dal Ladhau Kamgar Sena, Sharad Kuveskar said, “The BMC should immediately start a separate cell for bird and animal rescue. Fire brigade personnel face lot of challenges as they work under intense pressure. Also, these things are not their priority as fire fighting is their primary work. The BMC should speed up the work of appointing some other agencies for rescues.”

Firemen Sanjay Kalbhere, Dinesh Sabankar and Rajendra Bhojane from Mumbai Central Fire Station got electrocuted while trying to a rescue a crow. They came in contact with electric wires and got serious burn injuries between 30% and 60% and were admitted in Wockhardt Hospital. However, they were later moved to the National Burns Centre in Airoli.

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